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What causes a battery light on my dashboard?

Usually, when you first turn your car on, many of the warning lights on the dashboard light up, this works as a great safety feature to let you know whether that light still functions. But what does it mean when your battery light stays on?

The battery light will usually go away after your engine has started, and while the symbol looks like a battery, it’s more of a general electrical system warning light. Something is up with your electrical system, but it might not be the battery causing the fault.

What are the symptoms of electrical issues in cars?

Aside from the warning light on the dashboard, there will often be other signs that there is something afoot with your vehicle. In many cases, your vehicle could experience any of the following:

  • Dim headlights
  • Electric windows being slow, or unresponsive
  • The engine is difficult to start
  • Issues with the stereo not turning on
  • The engine stalling/cutting out frequently
Technician testing battery voltage with multimeter

What are the common causes of electrical issues in cars?

Modern vehicles often have hundreds or even thousands of metres of copper wiring running through them and while rare, it’s not unheard of to have weird little electrical gremlins.

Some of the more common causes of electrical issues in vehicles are:

  • Loose or damaged wiring connections
  • An internally damaged battery
  • Issues with the alternator and charging system voltage regulator
  • Water/moisture damage
  • Rodent/pest damage

Typically, diagnosing an electrical fault with the battery and charging system is quick and easy to do, whereas wiring issues and corrosion can be more time consuming to track down.

Do you need a new battery?

Just because the warning light on the dashboard is the image of a battery, doesn’t necessarily mean that the battery is either the problem or a symptom of the problem at hand, however, it’s usually the easiest part to check and replace, so most troubleshooting will start with the battery.

The lead-acid batteries used in vehicles typically last between 3 and 5 years, depending on your local climate, the type of vehicle, and your driving habits. For example, if you only take short, 5 minute trips, your battery won’t last as long as someone who routinely drives for longer periods of time.

There are multiple signs that your battery is faulty and needs replacement that you can check for, without the need for specialist tools and diagnostic equipment.

Battery Corrosion

Simply check for signs of corrosion around the battery posts. Battery corrosion looks like a white or blue crystal-like substance and is formed when the battery leaks.

Physical Damage

A car battery is full of hazardous materials, and should any physical damage come to the battery, it’s of utmost importance to replace the battery as soon as possible.

Heavily damaged and corroded battery

Loose Battery Tiedowns

Vibrations are the enemy of the modern automotive battery with the exception of some lithium batteries, dry-cell batteries, and AGM (absorbant glass mat) batteries. Vibrations will severely impact your battery’s lifespan.

Simply ensure that your battery isn’t free to move around and that it is secured properly. Usually your original battery tray is fine for this purpose, however if you have upgraded your battery or installed a dual-battery system in your 4x4, make sure your second battery is properly held in place.

See the expert team at Donnellans.

Just remember, when the battery light on your dashboard stays illuminated, it may be an issue with faulty wiring, or a mechanical issue that needs to be identified, such as a problem with the alternator or voltage regulator.

With 4 convenient locations across south-east Melbourne, you can contact us to discuss your vehicle. We can assess and advise you on the condition of your battery and provide advice for a replacement battery should one be needed.

Find your nearest store at the link below.

Contact us today!